Bears Survive in Goalie Battle

Petersen Great but Shepard Holds off Phantoms 1-0

April 2, 2024 

Hershey, PA – Cal Petersen turned aside 32 Hershey Bears shots in a strong performance as he kept the Phantoms within striking distance but Lehigh Valley was unable to break through against Hunter Shepard in a 1-0 loss at GIANT Center on Tuesday night. It was Lehigh Valley’s second consecutive 1-0 final in games against the Hershey Bears including a 1-0 shootout win for Cal Petersen against Clay Stevenson at PPL Center on March 3.

That’s how it goes sometimes against the first-place Bears who have the top two goaltenders in the AHL, both with sub-two goals-against averages, as well as a team that surrenders under 2.1 goals per game overall.

Lehigh Valley (28-27-9) had won three of the last four encounters against the crew from Chocolatetown and had enjoyed more success against the Bears than has any other team in the AHL. But the Phantoms sustained their fifth shutout loss against Hershey this season. Lehigh Valley is now 4-5-2 against Hershey.

The Phantoms almost equalized with just 40 seconds to go in the third period after a Garrett Wilson blast in the slot sent the Bears scrambling and tying up sticks. Jacob Gaucher and Wilson got in there to dig for the loose puck but Hershey’s defense tied up enough sticks to squash that opportunity and hang on from there.

Hershey (48-12-5) clinched the Atlantic Division crown with the result. The only goal they would need came off the stick of Pierrick Dubé (27th) less than seven minutes into the game on his blast from the left dot after it was rotated over to him by Jimmy Huntington and Henrik Rybinski. The big blast for their leading goal scorer came just one second after a power play had expired.

The Phantoms enjoyed the initial advantage before that Hershey power play and raced out to a 5-1 shots advantage with some challenging offerings at Shepard. But the Bears gained momentum off their power play and subsequent goal and outshot the Phantoms by a 17-2 margin for most of the rest of the first period.

The second period didn’t have as many official shots on goal but both teams generated some strong chances. Former Phantom Matt Strome rushed down ice almost on a breakaway but his try was denied by Petersen as was a subsequent attempt by Riley Sutter trailing on the play as Helge Grans crashed into the net and ended up blocking the big effort at the goal-line.

Dubé had another strong scoring try late in the second period but was denied on his breakaway while crashing into the cage and into Petersen. He was awarded a penalty shot on the play as well but Petersen came up with the big denial with 4:00 remaining in the second period to keep the Phantoms within a goal.

Lehigh Valley had five power plays on the evening but had difficulty finding entries against the top penalty kill in the AHL. The Phantoms later had to kill two Hershey power plays in the concluding eight minutes of regulation which hampered their comeback efforts.

Brendan Furry pushed forward with a strong shorthanded chance with over three minutes to go but was denied off the shoulder of Shepard. Rhett Gardner also had a tricky shot on the rush on a sharp-angle from the left wing that appeared to beat Shepard past his right shoulder but stayed out of the cage off the outside of the iron.

After Wilson and Gaucher almost found the tying tally in the last minute, it was J-R Avon who had the final chance of the game but his shot with two seconds left went off a teammate and deflected away as the horn sounded.

The Phantoms remain two points ahead of Springfield for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Thunderbirds are in action on Wednesday at the Toronto Marlies. Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs remains at 15 points with eight games remaining in the regular season.

The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Friday, April 5 against the Providence Bruins on Berks $1 Hot Dog Night and Saturday, April 6 against the Cleveland Monsters on Star Wars Night.

1st 6:34 – HER, P. Dube (27)

Penalty Shot:
2nd 16:00 – HER, P. Dube – Save by C. Petersen

LV 19 – HER 33

LV 0/5, HER 0/4

LV – C .Petersen (L) (32/33) (9-13-3)
HER – H. Shepard (W) (19/19) (25-3-3)

Lehigh Valley (28-27-9)
Hershey (48-12-5)

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Friday, April 5 (7:05) vs. Providence Bruins – Berks $1 Hot Dog Night
Saturday, April 6 (7:05) vs. Cleveland Monsters – Star Wars Night
Sunday, April 7 (3:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Friday, April 12 (7:00) at Hershey Bears
Saturday, April 13 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders